Beyond Meds: Monica Cassani

First Aired: 02-23-2009 -- 12 comments | Add comment
Gianna Kali

Blogger and former social worker Gianna Kali discusses her experience going into the mental health system after taking psychedelic drugs, spiritual emergence, decades of treatment with more than 30 different psychiatric medications, and the difficult process of coming off meds, drug withdrawal, and regaining her life.

Gianna is the creator of the Beyond Meds blog about mental health and coming off medications.

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12 comments on “Beyond Meds: Monica Cassani

  1. This was super educational. Thank you Will and Gianna. It’s funny, I can see how my very few outwardly rebellious moments were not appreciated way back when. And I’m seeing how I responded to the response of the non-appreciators (immigration officers at the airport, high-school principal etc…) was although it felt limiting to restrict myself, it was worth it, as it didn’t lead me to be ‘taken away’ and really abused by ‘the system’. I was lucky I had some emotional management- and not at the mercy of some bad drug trips etc… but there are times when I’d like to really lose it, but have learned emotional restraint to some degree and probably will make it unscathed. All the more reason to value learning emotional management skills and to stay away from drugs that can completely mess you up! I teach emotional management in my movement work and feel it would be of great value in this drug healing process.
    THank you for sharing so openly, Gianna and for your unrelenting quest to make this more accessible, Will!

  2. > Hi there,
    > Thank you for being such an instrumental part of my decision to titrate off
    > of 9 medications. My entire life has been overshadowed by mental illness and
    > I’m so fortunate to be living my life as a human being. I’ll try to be brief
    > with a small history so that I can best frame some important questions I
    > have for you.
    > Like many people with mental illness, I was treated for depression at a
    > young age. I started taking medications at 14 and my diagnosis was changed
    > to Bipolar when I entered college. The University of Pennsylvania
    > represented my biggest life dream. I had always dreamed of going to an Ivy
    > League school, especially the one where my father has been a doctor and
    > conducted 40 years of neuroscience research. I was forced to leave after one
    > year. This also happened to be the year that I was administered heavy duty
    > psychotropic medications and my parents began their divorce.
    > For ten years I played around in the automotive industry since I had a
    > passion for auto mechanics and racing. It was the only thing that soothed my
    > soul. I was in and out of the hospital for years. I was walking dead. A
    > couple of years ago, I moved out of Philadelphia to West Palm Beach Florida.
    > The warm weather and sun were very helpful.
    > I hired a prestigious psychiatrist whose reputation was confirmed by many
    > people in the area. He gave me hope that he could “fix” me. His first step
    > was to take my off of anti-depressants, which was an excellent move.
    > However, by the end of a year with him, my cocktail of medications rose to
    > 9. He recommended ECT and after a modest trial of ECT, I was no better than
    > I was before. Although I didn’t feel as if I suffered any side effects, it
    > was a traumatic experience.
    > The turning point came when the scale ticked 30 pounds higher than it was
    > only 3 months prior. I was taking 4 medications just for sleep and still
    > binging on sweets non-stop. Even though my cocktail “was not shown to cause
    > cognitive impairment”, I felt like an imbecile. I could not do simple math
    > in my head. I decided that my life could not get any worse, so I stopped
    > seeing my doctor and began very carefully eliminating medications.
    > I do want to mention a very unusual experience with a psychiatrist. While I
    > have many negative feelings against UPenn psychiatrists, several months ago,
    > I had a consultation with a “big dog” at UPenn. While I had been through all
    > of the doctors in Philadelphia while I still lived there, Dr. Thase, who
    > runs the UPenn Mood Disorder Research Program and specialized in bipolar,
    > agreed to consult me. I had just left my Florida doctor and flew home to see
    > my family. I had already started my final titration of Lithum but wanted Dr.
    > Thase’s opinion. Instead of chastising me for becoming my own doctor, he
    > said that it was completely sane to have wiped my slate clean from
    > medications. He said that people have been bipolar since the stone ages and
    > that medications only change the cycle of the illness, not eliminate it. He
    > mentioned that I had a 50% chance of getting of Lithium successfully and the
    > same chance of any new medication helping me. He wished me luck with what I
    > was doing, helped me find a holistic doctor in Florida and told me that he
    > would be my doctor when I returned to UPenn. What an incredible man and
    > perhaps someone you could interview in the future.
    > I have an enormous success story. I am still titrating my Lithium (10mg
    > every two weeks), but my life is immeasurably different. The only medication
    > I take is my 70mg of Lithium, which in several months will be obsolete. I
    > have been holding down a job (at Apple) for months, something I have never
    > been able to do before. I started school last semester at a local Florida
    > college and took a biology course. I did so well, that I was asked to be a
    > TA for the following semester. I am starting to look for groups to whom I
    > can share my story.
    > The only way I was able to be so successful was with several tools. My diet
    > was paramount. I did so much research and experimented with many methods of
    > nutrition and supplements. A specific routine in exercise has also been
    > important. Luckily, since the age of 18 I started to write a book centered
    > on my emotions and mood disorder. Essentially, I have a chronological
    > account of my psychiatric treatment to date.
    > I’m now a biology convert. After learning how the body works and knowing my
    > own psychiatric experience, I have decided to finish my schooling so I can
    > educate the world about the largest crime against biology: psychiatric
    > brainwash. While medications may have their place, every option must be
    > exhausted before treatment with psychotropics. Of all the patients I have
    > ever met in hospitals etc., none say that medications clear up the entire
    > illness. I’m a firm believer that diet and exercise can help to reduce
    > symptoms.
    > I am able to go back UPenn in one year, but my heart is at Stanford. The
    > school has a Human Biology program that touches upon natural methods to
    > stress and disease reduction. That’s something that no east coast school
    > could replicate as it’s that west coast mentality that lends to a course
    > offering such as “the biology of relaxation”.
    > It will be very difficult to get into Stanford. While I left UPenn with a B
    > average, I’m ten years out of school. i must do something extraordinary to
    > show that the school could choose no better candidate. The idea of composing
    > a scientific study centered on diet has been with me for a long time. Now
    > would be the perfect time to push ahead and complete it not only for my
    > future, but to benefit those who need help like me. I have some involvement
    > in the raw food community and have weaved simple nutrition tricks into my
    > daily regimen. For example, I can envision recruiting various patients with
    > bipolar or schizophrenia and adding only one thing to their “normal” diet: a
    > green smoothie. A green smoothie packed with different supplements each
    > morning for breakfast is simple yet one of the most important things I have
    > enacted in my life.
    > The thought of a scientific study led me to think more about my future and
    > what I would do exactly with a Human Biology degree. Doctors and consumers
    > need proof that something is effective. Since the pharmaceutical industry so
    > readily pays for trials on chemical remedies, I think that there needs to be
    > a huge movement to conduct trials on alternative methods. I see that the NIH
    > had the Complementary and Alterative Medicine branch to its organization,
    > but it’s utterly incomplete and not treated with the same clout as typical
    > clinical trials. I hope to be a crusader in preventing people from
    > experiencing the same things as myself, but I don’t know how people make a
    > living doing this.
    > Your interview with Dr. Breggin was incredible. I’d like to email him and
    > see what possibilities there are for someone like me in terms of a career.
    > But for right now, my aim is to do something useful with my one year period
    > before I go back to one of two amazing schools. Because of your vast
    > experience, I was hoping to gain your insight into a possible career,
    > education, the presence of alterative mental/general health studies and
    > ideas for a study I could conduct.
    > Thanks so much for your amazing work. You’ve changed my life.
    > Erica Liebman

    1. great story. you give me hope that i can recover.

  3. Biological psychiatry is the egregious use of neurotoxic psychiatric medications to reverse engineer induced neurological injuries back to the organic source by observation and experimentation. This was their only solution to evolve their present pseudoscience stature of ECT butchering into a credible physical science. After six decades of neurotoxic experimentation, we have finally concluded that mitochondria damage through necrosis and apoptosis is the essence to all violating iatrogenic psychiatric injuries and their associated mental disorders.
    Unfortunately, it was first discovered by the traumatically violated patients through reverse engineering their own symptoms of iatrogenic injuries back to the organic source. By utilizing the half-truth scientific research that would touch on the root cause in a multitude of perspectives, but would never implicate a direct connection, persistent iatrogenic injured individuals made the connection by comparing the research results against their own injuries. Iatrogenic injured individuals are the only ones who have the persistent drive and personal knowledge to spend years going through thousands of documents to find the truth to their neurological injuries. This is the reason why so many psychiatrist attempt to keep their iatrogenic injured patients sedated with medication by making them apathetic and blunted. Traumatically violated patients had the rare perspective of experiencing these iatrogenic injuries from the inside looking out; with the moral support and unyielding stance of a minority of ethical scientists and physicians (super-heroes) who didn’t yield to the monetary or status influence of the psychopharmaceutical dark side. Thank heaven for antioxidants, vitamin supplements, organic raw vegetables, and neurogenisis.
    We have bursted the discovery bubble that psychiatrists and scientists who were on the edge of revealing their spin on how liver cytochrome metabolism of genetically flawed individuals is the cause of neurotoxic iatrogenic injuries associated to mitochondria necrosis and apoptosis. It is like saying assault injuries caused by a deadly weapon is because we are genetically flawed without an exoskeleton. We are not designed to metabolize neurotoxins! Implicated psychiatrists now have no means to conceal their egregious acts to cover up iatrogenic injuries by utilizing the neurotoxic adverse side effects as a worsening of the original symptoms.
    It all started out around six decades ago by hiding the therapeutic effect of ECT caused by neurological mitochondria necrosis. Around five decades ago, chemical neurotoxins (chemical convulsive therapy) followed hiding the same therapeutic effect caused by neurological mitochondria necrosis. One lie led to the other. Neurotoxic products were invented, approved, and marketed to mask psychopharmaceutical induced iatrogenic injuries by creating diversions from the root cause. Neurotoxins such as Aspartame, MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sodium Fluoride, Pesticides, Herbicides, Terrorism, Economic Depression (Recession), BPA, Dioxin, and the like were utilized to create the initial symptoms or stressors of mental illness to encourage susceptible victims into the web of biological psychiatrists. Psychiatrists used the threat of litigation to silence the media from making derogatory statements against their neurotoxins by utilizing the placebo effect. The media will be the cause of patients abruptly stopping their medication. It is true that abrupt withdrawal is often more injurious than the continuous iatrogenic injuries of the neurotoxins because a person needs to maintain homeostasis no matter what they are taking. Slowly tapering off neurotoxins is needed under the care of a trusted physician.
    Psychiatry is currently in a vulnerable position and their iatrogenic injuries are becoming unveiled. Was it ever a wonder why the bible of psychiatry, DSM-IV-TR, does not have any mention of iatrogenic injuries induced my psychiatric medications? The guilty will reserve no means of vigilant tactics utilizing their current judicial influence to save their credibility and prevent persecution (prosecution). Do not be surprised that all citizens, or select citizen, will soon have to relinquish their civil rights of illegal search and seizure by requiring to undergo a mandatory psychiatric/psychological evaluation in an effort to identify those iatrogenic injured. How valid could a subjective psychiatric/psychological evaluation be if it was developed by the guilty parties for the purpose of hiding their iatrogenic injured. Iatrogenic injured citizens will be identified and placed under economic and judicial siege until they are mysteriously eradicated from society before they can implicate their psychiatric violators. The utilization of TeenScreen and its derivatives are already in the works and utilized in many of our state schools. Court ordered psychological evaluations are becoming more prevalent in judicial setting where a citizen is implicated in minor offenses. Iatrogenic injured citizens stand out due to our vulnerability to stressors such as financial hardship, interrogations, and false accusations.
    We must be vigilant and vocal utilizing the same tact before we are permanently silenced. Although it is very difficult to find representation since our judicial, legislative, and executive elected officials have strong financial ties to psychopharmaceutical lobbyists. The state and federal government also have their own agenda to conceal the iatrogenic injured under their care—(foster children, elderly, prisoners, veterans, poor, and the infirmed who are forced on neurotoxic medications).
    Gianna, Thank for giving me a format to vent my frusteration.

  4. Thank you for your courage!

    Thank you for coming out and telling us all about your experiences!!! It’s very important for all of us and others to hear you!!

    You are wonderful!!!

  5. Hi Gianna,
    I loved your quote – I’m not longer a psychiatric patient – I only have life problems. Or something like that. 🙂
    Thanks for letting me hear your voice and God bless,

  6. I live like a modern anarchistic buddha, without dogmas or rules. Our soul will command us what is wright and wrong. Everything is in our heart. I hope I can do something on the stigma on mental illness, because I can proove that there is a life after being drugged on antipsychotics.

  7. Hi Will,
    I want to share my story with you, as you asked me on Facebook. During my childhood I underwent several traumas due to the fact that there was a lot of violence between my parents. At the age of 12 I started to smoke marihuana, growing up between outcasts, hippies and punks, rock ‘n roll kids, in a lost generation in the nineties. Later on other drugs followed, like ecstacy, cocaine, amfetamines and so on. I did heroin a couple of times but I didn’t like the drug. So I know the dangers and possibilities of drugs, and it should be punished be law but under the supervision of the health care department. I didn’t know we had schizophrenia in the family, I realised that when at age 18 I got hospitalised in a severely psychotic state. After six months I went home experiencing the worst fears a man can get. I also did a lot of psychedelic mushrooms, never dropped acid, and I guess the psychedelics where the trigger towards a total collaps of the ego. My identification with Jesus and Buddha was the beginning of a spiritual process with a tendency of studying the human consciousness and spirituality. Several psychotic and manic states followed, and I felt a heavy tendency towards meditation and yoga which resulted in a spiritual emergency when the kundalini energy awoke in me. This was a heavy trip and due to the fact that there was no guidance from psychiatry, this ended in a suicide attempt, also after being psychology attacked by an agressive indiviual, while I was so hypersensitive. I’m still visiting a psychiatrist and I’m studying psychology myself. I had a lot of help from people who are the founders or co-founders of the Theosophical Society in Belgium, they study the works of Blavatsky and Alice Bailey. I also have a lot of people from the spiritual emergency network of Stanislav Grof around me, they even help me financially with my education. I work as a volonteer, building websites for artists and I write for a local newspaper in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, all of this is volonteer work. I know I am a highly sensitive person and I think that for a minority of the population societies rat race is going to fast. I’ve also been active as a singer-songwriter and poet which helped me to go through my depressive states. I have several certificates in computer language from college and I hope to combine all my knowledge for the work I want to due in the future: writing, art, music, healing, psychology, psychiatry and so on. You can listen to my music for free at
    I’m also in contact with Sean Blackwell from the You Tube Channel Bipolar Or Waking Up which is a very interesting channel. I read a lot about transpersonal psychology.
    I’m glad to have several famous and unfamous artists in Belgium around my as my friends. There is also a link between bipolar and psychosis in artistic environments. Now I live a quite sober life. Most of the drugs I don’t like anymore, so except to some recreational use of substances, I like it more to live a sober life. I even don’t drink much alcohol. Even marihuana is a trigger for sensitive people. My only big addiction is nicotine, that’s all, but for the rest I’ve found love and peace in my heart. I worked in high school in projects around psychiatry and the prevention of substance abuse and that was all very funny work to do. My goal is to study for my bachelor of arts in psychology and later on maybe I study further for a masters degree. But besides that, the most important think is to enjoy life, reduce stress, be a good person, honest and not corrupt with an open heart. I live like a modern anarchistic buddha, without dogmas or rules. Our soul will command us what is wright and wrong. Everything is in our heart. I hope I can do something on the stigma on mental illness, because I can proove that there is a life after being drugged on antipsychotics.
    My spiritual journey was a result of psychosis trigger by mind-altering drugs, but I think it can be more safety if you have a good teacher or transpersonal psychologist or psychiatrist through guided meditation and yoga. However I believe Aurobindo was right when he said that we have to experience everything that’s arising because it’s in our karma and we have to make the best of it. Besides the tremendous pain and suffering, it made me a more whole and loving person. I needed these experiences to go further with my destiny: do something for a better mental health care with the understanding of altered states of consciousness, psychosis in relation to spirituality. I had a lot of help from the works of professor David Lukoff and John Weir Perry, and also Loren Mosher from Soteria House, these people made me think it is possible to live a normal live with a sensitive nervous system. Ken Wilber was also great to read! I also believe art as a way of living is the best way to cure mental distress. My future goal is to guide people with the same experiences, as a volonteer or with sharing my story. The next project is working on a book with Gil Semedo, one of the most famous artists of the Portuese speaking countries. I met him a couple of years ago and we became good friends.
    I support madness radio, this information is necessary!
    Kind regards,

    1. Kristo I find your comments really really healing. Might add more later.


  8. Congratulations Gianna and Radio Madness for getting the word out. Job well done.


  9. Pingback: Gianna on Madness Radio – Beyond Meds

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